Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World- An Inventive and Authentic Grapic Novel Adaptation in the Hands of Stylish Director Edgar Wright

The track record of adapting graphic novels hasn’t had the best reputation in the last couple of years. Zack Snyder couldn’t handle the epic Watchmen, James McTeigue blatantly ruined V for Vendetta, and the abhorrently ridiculous and inaccurate adaptation of Wanted was agonizing to experience. So when it was announced that they were going to adapt one of the more light hearted graphic novels known as “Scott Pilgrim versus the World,” there wasn’t much optimism of its success until celebrated director and writer Edgar Wright was taking the helm. Wright is known for his stubbornness of style, which was clear in his British television series “Spaced,” as well as his two satire films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. And thankfully this unique talent of staying true to a particular tone and upholding a stylish delivery really makes Wright’s new film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World shine amongst the drivel that continues to enter theaters month after month. Scot Pilgrim isn’t necessarily a great film, but from the very opening there is a charm and wit to its combination of classic video game atmosphere, character absurdity, and tongue in cheek referencing that makes it an intriguing and ultimately enjoyable film to experience. While most of us have gotten tired of Michael Cera’s one note talent it is clear that Edgar Wright knows how to utilize all of the aspects of film, including experiments with camera work, editing, and bringing out the best in his cast, that inevitably keeps us distracted, entertained, and grounded in this comic book world that is unfamiliar to our own.

Scott Pilgrim has Cera in his most comfortable role as a naïve and impossibly innocent 22 year old bass player who lives in Toronto, Canada and is stuck in the long mourning period of his last break up by replacing the memory for a young, Catholic, Asian schoolgirl. Edgar Wright knows how to handle absurdity and the world that Scott Pilgrim lives in is quite absurd on many levels, either socially or for just the pure ridiculous nature of the fighting sequences and video game aura. If the trailers haven’t given you enough exposition, the plot in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World focuses on Scott falling head over heals for an American girl named Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who has seven evil ex boyfriends who have taken upon themselves to control the future of her love life and is led by an obsessively controlling record producer named Gideon (Jason Schwartzman). Scott must defeat all of them in a Street Fighter sort of battle mode if he is able to freely date Ramona and as he struggles with each fight he also struggles with the uncomfortable nature of getting to know her past in more detail as the baggage, and body coins, keeps piling up. Without Wright and fellow screenwriter Michael Bacall’s ability to embrace the ridiculousness of the graphic novel in all of its essence and tone Scott Pilgrim vs. the World would have been atrociously flat and revoltingly gimmicky. However, their organized and thought out script is brought to life in all of its charm and wit making an enjoyable and surprisingly accurate graphic novel adaptation.

Trying to integrate a comic book atmosphere and video game fight sequences into a world that seems practically like our own could be a daunting task for any filmmaker. However, Edgar Wright knows the possibilities of film and utilizes them to his advantage that makes the transition quite nicely from seemingly normal simpleton life in Canada to the absurd reality that begins with the first fight sequence. What is so inventive about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the video game styles that have been successfully brought to life here and makes the cinema experience a deservingly refreshing one with the style being the integral piece of how everything else unfolds. Using a sort of throwback to the Adam West “Batman” television series with the particular actions having a comic book written word to them, such as the ringing of a doorbell or the phone, is a crafty tool that Wright knew how to use in order to make the inevitable ridiculous actions on the screen seem believable. The fights that range from battling bass solos to music taking the form of animals to battle in a concert full of people aren’t meant to be grounded in reality, but it certainly helps the audience enter such a world when the filmmaker has the tact and discipline in style and form to gently bring us in. While everything in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World seems as though it is dealing with actual real people it always seems as though a comic book is being brought to life frame by frame in front of you. The tricks with the camera, the clever editing to make it occasionally seem as though it is a comic book frame, the outlandish fighting including henchmen exploding into collectable coins, pop culture references including the “Seinfeld” theme song and laugh track, and even getting to replay a level after dying (done similarly to Run, Lola, Run) are all elements to Wright’s successful adaptation of a light hearted graphic novel and makes it a riveting and all around enjoyable cinematic experience.

Having a well balanced cast is essential in films that deal with different realities because everything depends on them believing in their own point of view. Despite Michael Cera’s typical performance that is used quite well in the film there is a fresh cast that gives some vibrant and wonderfully ridiculous performances that get us through the living comic book. All of the seven evil exes balance their exaggerated roles rather well, which include some notable appearances from Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman. Academy award nominated actress Anna Kendrick plays the role of Scott’s sister and she does a great job reacting with the already comedic timing of the playful camera work. Even Keiran Culkan as Scott’s strangely promiscuous gay roommate provides some good moments. Everyone makes the film lively and authentic despite its bizarre presentation of a comic book reality that becomes more and more outlandish as the film progresses. But the actors feel genuine and their emotions even more real so Edgar Wright’s film becomes balanced and pleasant amidst the fast paced storyline and energetic delivery.

This summer has failed to offer anything truly original in story or style and it’s refreshing to see Edgar Wright continue his notable filmmaking streak this time with an adaptation that seemed doomed to fail. Fortunately for everyone the inventive chaotic style of mixing comic book characters and tone with the vigorous underpin of a video game make Scott Pilgrim vs. the World a wonderfully vibrant and modern film. It certainly has a specific audience in mind aimed at comic book geeks, teenage know it alls, and a younger generation attuned with the video game culture but it has enough liveliness and wit to engage any audience member who is willing to be taken into Wright’s successful depiction of the comic book world. Sometimes the absurdity of the film gets ahead of itself, and perhaps is trying to entertain the filmmakers more than an audience, but the fact remains that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a downright refreshing movie in the theaters that stands out amongst the constant mediocre cinema that always plagues the theaters every week.

Grade: B+

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